Fadi*, 11, collects sticks every day for his family to use for firewood and cooking but he is worried about straying too far from their shelter. *Name has been changed. Photo Credit: Antonia Roupell/Save the Children.
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New Report Shows War is Becoming More Dangerous for Children; Save the Children Calls for Greater Protection for Children and Accountability for Perpetrators
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (February 14, 2018) — More children than ever before — at least 357 million globally — are now living in areas affected by conflict, a new report by Save the Children reveals. The War on Children: Time to End Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict shows this number has increased by 75% since the early 1990s, with one in six children globally now living in impacted areas.
Nearly half of these children are in areas affected by high-intensity conflict where they could be vulnerable to the United Nation’s six grave violations — killing and maiming, recruitment and use of children, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian assistance.
The report shows there are significant gaps in child and gender-specific data in conflicts that need to be addressed by improved monitoring and reporting mechanisms. Despite this, some trends are clear — and deeply worrying.
Since 2010, the number of UN-verified cases of children being killed and maimed has gone up by almost 300%, while incidents of denial of humanitarian access have skyrocketed by more than 1,500%. This has been fueled by a growing disregard for the rules of war.
The research — carried out by Save the Children and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) — will launch ahead of the influential Munich Security Conference, which provides the opportunity for global political, military, and security leaders to agree on measures to protect children in conflict.
The War on Children attributes the worsening situation for children to the increasing urbanization of war, the growing use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as well as the protracted and more complex nature of modern conflict that has put children and civilians on the front lines.
The report also reveals that:
- Brutal tactics are increasingly used to target children in warfare — including the use of children as suicide bombers, direct targeting of schools and hospitals, and the widespread use of indiscriminate weapons like cluster munitions, barrel bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
- Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia were the most dangerous conflict-affected countries to be a child in 2016.
- Children in the Middle East are most likely to be living in a conflict zone, with two in five children in that region living in a conflict-affected area — the highest rate globally. Africa is second, with 1 in 5 children affected by conflict. Asia has the highest overall number of children affected by conflict.
Several case studies are included in the report, including the following story from Yannick,* a 15 year old from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was recruited to an armed group under false promises that he wouldn’t be hurt.
“(The militants) took me to another village where they had arranged a ‘baptism’ for the new recruits. The baptism gave us mystical powers and the strength to fight. I was scared. I wanted to run away. They told us that, in combat, we had nothing to fear. Even when the soldiers shot us or hurt us, nothing would happen. We wouldn’t die. They gave us a stick for fighting and a red headband.
“We went into battle in single file, armed with our sticks. The soldiers began to fire as soon as they saw us. I watched those in front of me killed by gunfire. We had waited at first, just watching the soldiers fire at us, because we had been told that a bullet could not touch us. But when we saw our friends die, we ran away.”
“Crimes like this against children are the darkest kind of abuse imaginable, and are a flagrant violation of international law,” said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children. “World leaders must do more to hold perpetrators accountable.”
Save the Children is calling on states, militaries, and all actors with influence over the lives of children in conflict to commit to practical actions on four key themes:
- Preventing children being put at risk: Investments need to be made in conflict-prevention initiatives and peacekeeping, and training for military forces on child protection.
- Upholding international laws and standards: All states and actors should abide by their commitments under international law, and should endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and Paris Commitments & Paris Principles. States and armed groups must commit to avoiding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
- Holding violators to account: We urgently need stronger monitoring and reporting mechanisms to properly track civilian harm and child casualties, and stronger justice systems that address violations of children’s rights in conflict.
- Rebuilding shattered lives: We must put children at the center of reconstruction efforts and invest in support for children affected by conflict, including providing appropriate mental health care for children, training local mental health and social workers and assisting children with disabilities. Funding for the rebuilding of children’s lives wrecked by conflict must also be made available.
Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.